1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Memories of Alderson

Bobby Black - September 16, 2002

Monday, September 16, 2002 Dear Monroe Watchman:

A few years ago Robert Hedrick, Bud Ballard, and I got together a collection of “Recollections From The Good Old Days in Alderson.” As it turned out Hedrick proved to be a fountain of information. Bud and Robert have passed on now so in their memory I offer the following...

When the Alderson Post Office was something. You could mail an order to Montgomery Ward on the evening train Sunday and pick it up at 7:30 Tuesday morning. There was a Railway Post office in the train.

All day preaching and dinner on the grounds.

Greenbrier Velvet ice cream. Oh so good!

F. G. Lobban’s horse-drawn hearse.

When Alderson had five doctors. Beard, Mahood, Fawcett, Argabrite and McClung.

Doctors had horses to make house calls miles out in the country and problems getting paid.

Bob Watkins. The gentle black man who lost his feet to a train. He sold Mikado pencils.. called them “Mikedoo.”

Pence Springs Ginger Ale.

When passenger trains were big and sometimes needed two engines going over the mountains. How Alderson folks would go to the station to see who got off. The loud exhaust echoing off the Woodson-Prince Building as the engines started.

The excursion trains to Washington and Buckroe Beach. It costs $3.50 round trip. The C and O used ever piece of old equipment they had and trains ran for half the night.

The Herod boys... Lyle, Blaker and Warren... the Baptist parsonage was a hang-out for half the boys in town.

Alf Carraway’s planning mill and the whine of the machinery.

Julian Dearilng’s store across the street.

The carnivals and circuses at Maple and Virginia. We would watch three men drive tent pegs. How good the hot dogs, hamburgers and onions smelled... still Mac’s Snack Shack had the best hamburgers in town.

The Greenbrier Milling Co. When they were running the flour bleacher it made so much static you couldn’t listen to the radio in the daytime.

When Acme Limestone would detonate 50,000 pounds of dynamite to blow down a huge wall of limestone. People would come from miles around to watch the brief but spectacular show.

The golf course at Pence Springs. The “clubhouse” is still there next to the old springhouse.

The golf course in the dairy field back of the Baptist Church.

When the Simmons, Sharps and Willis had dairies and delivered milk to customers with horse-drawn wagons.

Remember when Gus Moss and Walter Rogers delivered ice to your house? And the card you hung out to let them know how much ice you wanted. Didn’t those ice chips taste good on a July day.

Jim Tolley at the Pence Springs airport where many of us took our first airplane ride.

A flight of twelve Martin bombers flew over town on the way to the Logan County mine wars.

Ralph Nash, Noel Ellis and Ernest Godsey had air planes, including an autogiro... at Glenray.

Alderson had no water purification plant. We carried drinking water from the Baptist spring or from Shanklin’s pump... this was sulphur water and the lock on the door required a penny.

The tannery at Marlington dumped poisonous waste into the river, killing the fish...

Acme Limestone would wash out their settling basins from time to time and the river turned a bright copper color.

How did “Toby” Keeney get his nickname? A traveling tent show called the “Beers Players” setup on the show grounds and a comic character named Toby with a red wig in one of the plays... and Toby Keeney was a little red headed boy.

Ambrose Ayers running for the House of Delegates and riding his white mule down main street... followed by Alderson Hi’s marching band.

“Squire” McNeer and his town band. Great sounds.

Then there was Percy Hullings and the “Merry Melody Makers.” Findley Russell, Buck Shott, Courtney Pugh, Robert Hedrick, Lee Tate, Leonard Ballard, and Dodie Vaughn.

People whistling to popular tunes. Can you imagine whistling the garbage on the radio now?

Coal was delivered at $3.50 a ton.

J. M. Alderson’s store burning to the ground during the wee hours on Thanksgiving morning.. in zero weather.

The wonderful old time radio programs. How everything stopped for 45 minutes each week day while we listened to Lowell Thomas, Amos and Andy, and Lum and Abner.

The Russell Theater and how Jim Russell brought us “Gone With the Wind” before any other theater got it. Cost: $1.00.

Jarret-Massey Hall on the third floor of the Alderson National Bank.

“Silas Green From New Orleans” and “Florida Blossoms” minstrel shows and their bands marching bands on parade through town... and later their elephants headed for the middle of the Greenbrier River for their bath.

Before we had a liquor store, how rub alcohol at ten cents a bottle at Townley’s five and dime was a big seller.

The farmers driving their sheep through town... across the bridge.. to the railroad cars.

The covered bridges on Muddy Creek and Mill Creek.

The Hoye’s who lived next to the Methodist Church and their talking parrot... one warm Sunday morning they hung the parrot’s cage in an open window next to the church... the preacher erupted in a particularly loud, emphatic shout... the parrot responded almost as loudly... “Ha, ha, that was worth a quarter?”.... It almost broke up the service.

William Jennings Bryan’s daughter, Ruth, restored “The Ceaders.” Her Danish husband, Captain Rohde, would race his sports car around town... chased by neighbors dogs.

The Greenbrier would freeze over... and ice skating was the thing... if you had skates.

The flat-pole on Keeney’s Knob.... and later the fire tower.

Real country butter, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup.

Mr. Pence and his helper at the blacksmith shop and the ring, ring, of the hammer on the anvil.

The hitching lot back of the Methodist Church... and the dozen or so boys playing marbles ... for keeps!

“Wings” cigarettes at ten cents a pack. “Sunshine” at five cents a pack.

Mail Pouch” tobacco signs on farmers barns.

The boys got their kicks from the Sears, Roebuck catalog corset pages... catalog pages had a final, practical use...

Separate waiting rooms for men and women at the railroad station.

Livestock feed came in pretty print bags. Many women washed the bags and made dresses and other apparel from the material.

Commors Drug store and later Hoyes’s in the Alderson National Bank building.

Some people stole clothes off clotheslines.

The town had a curfew law. The fire alarm would sound at 9 o’clock and the youths had to be off the streets.

Chief Hall and later Sam Meads.. our wonderful police officers.

Some female escaped from the Federal Prison... the alarm sounded...and every boy over 15 would join in the search... hoping for an award.

Then WW 2. Alderson had 303 local boys and girls answer the call.

Charles (Sonny) Fletcher... Medal of Honor winner. (Sonny” lost a brother in the war.)

Big family reunions all summer long...

A friend says this happened at one of his family reunions...

“A man in his seventies had a severe hearing problem and was standing off to the side. A little lady in her nineties came up to him and asked, “Are’nt you Walter?” He said, “What did you say?’ She said louder, “I’m Ethel.” He said, “I can’t hear you.” She spoke as loudly as she could, “I’m Ethel, your cousin. I used to change your diapers.” He answered, “You wouldn’t recognize the old place now.”

Some more...

The weekly newspaper: “The Alderson Advertiser.” George Werkheiser was the editor and Bernard Rowe was the “printers devil.” Duncan Johnson was the last editor.

Walton (Jimmy) Williams made it all the way to Chicago in the Golden Gloves tournaments.


The dust bowl in Oklahoma when millions of tons of soil were blown away and carried around the world. The glorious red sunsets we saw.

Infantile paralysis, the dreaded killer disease of children.

The Palestine Roller Mill. High water washed out the dam just above on Muddy Creek.

“Ollie” Walker with one leg and crutches and his butcher shop. Hamburger 15 cents a pound and steak... 25 cents a pound.

The old Edison phonographs with the “morning glory” horns and cylinder records.

Crosley refrigerators powered by a kerosene flame.

The Saturday night dances... big bands.. at Riverside Inn, Pence Springs... and so many pretty girls...

People didn’t bother to lock their doors at night... many didn’t have locks that worked anyway.

Quilting bees.

Lye soap.. I mean the old fashioned way. Let spring water seep through wood ashes in a vee-shaped hopper to make the lye. Use fat from butchering and boil in a big pot outdoors. When cooled the soap would rise to the top.

1932... when the first Ford V 8”s came out.

The WPA and those wonderful structures they build that dotted the countryside.

The minimum wage was 25 cents an hour. Many people were glad to work for less.


The severe drought of 1930-31. Half the people said it was the fault of President Hoover and the rest said it was the fault of all the radio’s being used...

Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Federal Correctional Institution... every one in town .. almost.. got to the train station to see her get off.

Before the days of dial telephones the switchboard was on the second floor of the Alderson National Bank building The two Vaughn girls were the operators.

WW2 veterans put lights on our football field... first in the Greenbrier Valley.

First football game under lights... with Greenbank Hi... and that great dance on the 3rd floor of the Woodson-Prince Building following the game.

That softball team of 1947.. remember “Red” Nickell, Bud Ballard, Dick Altare, Joe Henry Johnson, Slim Kessler, Charlie Hogsett, Pete Pugh, Ed Ballard, Marcus Dillon, Don Bryant, Eddie Pence, Jerry O’Brien, Babe Lowe, and Bobby Black?

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